French far-right presidential candidate Éric Zemmour has been sentenced by the Paris court to a fine of 10,000 euros for inciting racial hatred. French media reported this on Monday. Zemmour called unaccompanied minor migrants “thieves, murderers and rapists” during a 2020 TV debate about the Charlie Hebdo attack. Several anti-racism and human rights groups subsequently filed a lawsuit against him.
Zemmour himself was not present at the verdict. In a statement, he said he criticized prosecutors and anti-racist groups “attempting to intimidate him.” He also said that the political debate should not take place in court. Zemmour was not yet a presidential candidate at the time of his statements; he did not apply until the end of 2021.
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An appeal is due next Thursday over another case, in which Zemmour is challenging charges over his verdicts of crimes against humanity. During a televised debate in 2019, he claimed that Philippe Pétain, Marshal and leader of authoritarian Vichy France during World War II, is hardly guilty of deporting French Jews. Pétain collaborated with Nazi Germany and is one of the most controversial figures in twentieth century French history.
Zemmour was convicted twice before for racist statements. In 2010, he told the former French TV channel France Ô that employers “have the right to refuse Arabs and blacks”. Zemmour was fined 1,000 euros for this. In 2016, a fine of 3,000 euros followed for his statements during the TV program It’s up to you. In it, Zemmour said that Muslims “should be given a choice between Islam or France” and that “all Muslims, whether they say so or not, regard jihadists as good Muslims.”
Before running for election, Zemmour was already known as a writer, columnist for the French newspaper Le Figaro and commentator on French television, and stands for total assimilation of French people with a migrant background. Zemmour does not come from traditional politics and as a columnist has often spoken negatively about women and the LGBTI community. He himself is of Jewish-Algerian descent.
Zemmour’s party Reconquête (reconquest) has only been around since the autumn of 2021, but is currently the fourth party in the latest polls. Electorally, he mainly poses a threat to the far right competitor Marine Le Pen of the Rassemblement National (former Front National). The French presidential elections are in April this year.